Actions make true love identifiable.

Pop culture is filled with voices talking about love. Our culture is obsessed with the concept, but their understanding of love is greatly limited because they don't know the truth. Mere interest in a subject doesn't make one an authoritative voice on it. Who will you listen to when determining the character of true love?

Last week we learned from 2 John that the truth makes true love possible. Outside truth, there is no love. This week, 3 John teaches us that actions make true love identifiable.

3 John is one of the most intimate apostolic letters. It was written to a man named Gaius (a different man than the Gaius mentioned by Paul 30 years before John wrote this letter). He was probably a member of a church in Asia Minor. The apostle John uses three individuals as models of true love: one negative, one positive, and one exemplary.

How can you know you are being loved in truth? Do you want to be a true lover of others? The character of true love is shown in concrete, practical action.

Love in truth acts faithfully.

Gaius himself is the first positive example of true love. The opening to John's letter foreshadows the content that will follow. John prays that Gaius will physically "prosper and be in good health, just as [his] soul prospers" (3 John 1:2). John knew that Gaius' soul was already prospering, and he prayed that his body would prosper to the same degree. What was so wonderful about Gaius' soul?

Gaius' soul was saturated with truth. John’s love was provoked by Gaius’ walk in the truth. Other believers could testify of its evidence in his life. This clear walk brought incomparable joy to John (3 John 1:3-4).

We love the individuality of our own souls, and rightfully so. God created us each uniquely. However, we must make sure our souls are governed by the truth. Because of the sinful nature, our individuality sometimes desires sin. A part of us that hates God's authority is still present alongside the new nature. The task of becoming Christ-like is to know the truth and express our individuality out of that. We are most prosperous when we, like Christ, are wholly submitted to the will of the Father in all things.

Faithful love accomplishes things.

Gaius proved his love by walking in the truth in the context of the local church. John could recognize and affirm this because he learned love from its primary source, Jesus. Love of the brethren (other Christian believers) is critical to all that John writes. Corporately, true love in the church assures unbelievers that they are in a place where Christ is working (John 13:34).

An individual who does not treat others according to the truth is not loving them. He or she may call it love, but it is actually hate. Refusing to tell the truth to another person is encouraging sin (1 John 2:9-11). Discipline can be just as loving as affection.

Love acts faithfully because it abides by a gold standard.

The motivation for all truly loving acts is giving one's soul what honors God. He created us, so He understands us and knows what is best for us. We must filter our desires through the truth of His Word. If they align, then we are free to pursue our desire! If they do not, we must ask the Lord to progressively remove that desire or action from our lives.

Greatness motivates faithfulness, and no one is greater than the God of truth.

True love has pure intentions toward the object being loved.

3 John 1:7 lends a sobriety to our approach when loving other believers. Those who are truly saved go out every day "for the sake of the Name" of Christ. They are agents of the King of kings, so we must take care to express love to each other in a way that honors His interests.

True love does not elevate self.

Diotrephes is a negative example of love. He "love[d] to be first among" fellow believers in the church (3 John 1:9). The archenemy of love is not hate, but selfishness. Diotrephes created problems not through false doctrine; his character issue was wreaking havoc on the congregation. He heard the truth given in love from the apostle John, but he would not accept it. True lovers are learners.

Love demonstrates itself in selfless acts.

Demetrius is the exemplary model of love. Gaius is commanded to imitate him. Discipleship is more than data transfer. Our responsibility is to model truth fleshing itself out in love. The identifiable actions of love are summed up in one word: selflessness.

Selfless acts promote good in the life of the person being loved. This imitates the nature of God. These actions are a surer witness of one's salvation than others' assurances.

Application Points
  • The conduct of your life shows the quality of your love. Are you offering love in truth? This is the greatest gift you can give to anyone!
  • What if you could physically prosper only to the degree that you were growing spiritually? Is your soul prospering?
  • Don't let your individuality bypass the truth. Your old nature will desire sin at times, but you must govern this desire by God's Word.
  • Parents and disciplers, do you point others to truth? Are you growing in selfless acts among believers? These should naturally overflow from your time in the Word and prayer.
  • Love is fundamental to the human condition. Where do you go to get the love that is so essential to life? The degree to which you make God the source of your love will determine the quality of your life. If you seek love outside of God's truth, your life will be horrific. If you seek love in God, you will increasingly participate in the quality of eternal life (2 Peter 1:4).

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Matthew 6:33, 21 – There is a confluence between the immaterial and material.
  • John 4:10 – God knows what is best for us.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 – The gold standard for loving in truth.
  • Hebrews 13:17 – Receiving love in truth.
Quotes to Ponder

"Give everyone mercy, except your own soul."
– Joel Owen

"Your walk talks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks more loudly than your talk talks."

A Hymn to Encourage: "I Stand Amazed in the Presence"

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior's love for me!

For me it was in the garden
He prayed: "Not my will, but thine."
He had no tears for his own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.

When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
'Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.